New app-based bike hire scheme comes to Paris

The Gobee.bike cycle hire scheme has now arrived in Paris

A new generation of bikes for hire is expected to appear across Paris in direct competition to the established “Vélib’” scheme.

The new “Geobee.bike” system actually began in Lille, and is significantly different to the Paris “Vélib’” and the Lille “V’Lille” schemes, in that users can pick the bikes up from anywhere, and do not need to find a specific “station” to drop them off after use, explains French news source 20 Minutes.

The bikes are found via a smartphone app, using geolocation technology. Users simply need to download the Gobee.bike app, register and add payment details, turn on their smartphone’s geolocation settings, and then discover where the closest bike is to them.

Users will then pay a refundable deposit of €50, and unlock the said bike by flashing its QR code through the app. Hire costs 50 centimes per hour, and users can also record their journeys and share where they are, perhaps with friends who want to meet up with them, or to let others know when they have arrived home safely.

Once finished with, the bike can be left anywhere in the city limits, and re-locked using the QR code again, ready for someone else to take.

Gobee.bike’s only other location worldwide - so far - is Hong Kong, but the company has big ambitions, especially for Paris, which itself has stated plans to invest €150million by 2020, to double the city’s cycle lane network (from the current 700km to over 1,400km).

Gobee.bike will not be the only rival bike hire scheme to Vélib’ for very long; Chinese company Ofo, which offers yellow bikes along similar lines, has stated that it plans to come to Paris in 2018.

Commentators suggest that Ofo could totally dominate the market, as it already has 10 million bikes across 180 cities worldwide.

However, despite the proliferation of rivals to Vélib’, some have attracted criticism for the quality of their bikes, with the biking association “Paris On A Saddle” (Paris en selle) raising concerns about the safety of Ofo cycles.

“The bikes that I have seen are really in the ‘Made in China’ style,” said Charles Maguin, speaking to 20 Minutes. “They are very light, and you can feel that they are perhaps not the best quality. They are also vulnerable to vandalism. I have seen some photos from China that are not very reassuring.”

There are also fears that the bikes could end up being abandoned in unhelpful or unsafe places, or even stolen and sold online for profit.

Yet, Gobee.bike has sought to reassure the public.

“We will have over a dozen agents in Paris who will move the bikes if needed,” said Raphael Cohen, creator of Gobee.bike. “We will also rely on our community of trustworthy cyclists to improve the service, asking them to alert us to any problems.”

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